I like to have conversations with my husband. This, of course, gets harder the longer we have been together, because the majority of topics have been covered many times over.
One conversational gambit that always used to work was the “what do you think” question. “What do you think is the most water you would have to drink in order to die of water poisoning?” Another opener that used to work is the factoid probe: “Are basketball players more physically fit than baseball players? It seems to me that Babe Ruth was fat. And by the way, was Babe really his name?” Again, great opening for speculation. Opinion. Discussion about Babe Ruth vs. Steph Curry.
These things don’t work any more, because of Alexa, Siri, Google, Google Maps, and worst of all, Wikipedia. I ask a stimulating question, and I am met with “Check Wikipedia.” Here’s the thing: I DON’T REALLY WANT THE FACTS. I want a conversation in which he will open with, let’s say on the water question, with “Oh, that’s an interesting question. Are you asking how much water one would have to drink at one sitting? Because I bet it would have to be more than a gallon.” To which I would hazard a guess, and then we would move on from there to how much beer might be too much, and so on. In the era before the internet, conversations like this could go on and on.
But no. These days, any question like that is squelched by the “check Google, etc.” response. End of discussion. This happens all the time–not just with my husband. Friends in restaurants often pull out their phones to fact check everything from “Do you think those realtors on Selling Sunset are all anorexic?” to “Is sushi really that popular, or do people just pretend they like it in order to seem sophisticated?” We seem to have lost our ability to speculate and probe deeply into things, offering up our points of view. No– we just ask Siri and move on.
It gets harder and harder to have a good time when we feel the need to research every topic on our phones in order to get the definitive answer. There is a way to get around this, however. I just figured this out! Good heavens, why didn’t I think of this before? The solution is to ask speculative questions about the future:
Oh my God what do you think will happen when Elon Musk starts running Twitter?
How many more Ken Burns documentaries do you think there will be?
Will women ever admit that high heels are torture?
Will people ever reconsider kale as a vegetable?
Take that, Wikipedia.